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Phytopathology. 2008 Jul;98(7):752-9. doi: 10.1094/PHYTO-98-7-0752.

Frequency of sexual recombination by Mycosphaerella graminicola in mild and severe epidemics.

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U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agriculture Research Service, Department of Plant Pathology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695, USA.


The importance of sexual recombination in determining fungal population structure cannot be inferred solely from the relative abundance of sexual and asexual spores and reproductive structures. To complement a previously reported study of proportions of Mycosphaerella graminicola ascocarps and pycnidia, we investigated the share of sexual recombinants among isolates randomly derived from the same field at the same time. Early in three successive growing seasons (those ending in 1998, 1999, and 2000), field plots of the susceptible winter wheat cultivar Stephens were inoculated with suspensions of two M. graminicola isolates that each had rare alleles at restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) loci. Near harvest time, leaves were randomly sampled from the same plots, and a population of over 100 monopycnidial isolates was created for each year of the experiment. Natural populations were also sampled from noninoculated plots in the 1999 and 2000 seasons, in order to compare allele frequencies. Based on RFLP haplotypes and DNA fingerprints, isolates from the inoculated plots were categorized by both inspection and Bayesian methods as inoculant clones, recombinants, or immigrants. Inoculation in the 2000 season was delayed, and the recovery rate of inoculant types was just 1 to 2%. In 1998, a high-disease year, and 1999, a low-disease year, inoculants comprised 36 and 22 to 23% of end-of-season samples, respectively. In those 2 years, recombinants as a percentage of inoculant descendants (both sexual and asexual) were 35 and 32%, respectively. By comparison, the study of fruiting bodies had found 93 and 32% of M. graminicola fruiting bodies were ascocarps in 1998 and 1999, respectively. These findings support the hypothesis that sexual recombination makes a relatively consistent contribution to M. graminicola population structure, despite differences in epidemic severity and ascocarp proportions.

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